Awe-Samosas! Interview with Marzieh Abbas and a GIVEAWAY!

One of the best things about my path to publication has been the formation of Kidlit Works, the fantastic debut group I am a member of. I got to know other writers with books coming out this year—and their stories. And now that it’s 2024, I get to talk about everyone’s books here on Picture Book Builders! When it comes to Marzieh Abbas, “debut group” is a misnomer, since the upcoming AWE-SAMOSAS! (illustrated by Bhagya Madanasinghe) will actually be her third picture book. Awe-Samosas! tells the story of Noor, who needs to come up with some quick culinary innovations to make her grandmother’s samosa recipe a reality when it’s too early to call her in Pakistan for cooking advice. We are lucky to have Marzieh here on Picture Book Builders today to talk about title tips, parrots, and more! You can enter a giveaway for a copy of Awe-Samosas! by commenting below.

Sara: I love the title of this book! It’s succinct and the wordplay is so fun. As someone who has the hardest time thinking of titles, how did you come up with this one?

Marzieh: This manuscript was initially titled ‘Samosa Surprise’. The word ‘Awe-samosas!’ was in the early drafts, but it wasn’t the title. Since this was one of the first manuscripts I wrote when I began writing back in 2019, it went through so many revisions, I have literally lost track of which draft was eventually accepted for publication. Towards the end of its very long journey, a critique partner suggested this word would make a wonderful title. So all credit goes to them (I wish I could recall who it was!). 

Usually, story ideas come to me in the shape of titles. They may change as I revise, but often I go to the most intriguing idea, or the sentence in the manuscript I like best. I then play around with the order of words and often leave my CPs a few questions (as comments in a google doc) about which title sounds most appealing. 

Sara: I love these title tips! I also love picture books where food plays a central role, and my students do, too. Luckily for us, there are no shortage of mouth-watering stories on the shelves. But, this can make it a challenge for writers to stand out. Was this on your mind while you drafted, and how did you approach the story to make it irresistible to editors?

Marzieh: Honestly, when I wrote this book, I wasn’t agented. As it went through revisions, I became more and more attached to the idea of a book about samosas with unique fillings. This is the manuscript which got me my agent and then I worked on it for months with a smaller publisher before it fell through at acquisitions. It wasn’t the first story I sold, but my agent and I believed there was something there– we kept submitting it over a period of nine months before it was picked up by my wonderful editor, Chris Krones, at Clarion, an imprint of HarperCollins. I loved the suggestions they had to refine the idea even further and make it even more inclusive and diverse than it already was. We went through a further three rounds of revisions before they took it to acquisitions. 

Sara: It’s incredible to hear the long journey of a single book!

The central relationship in this story is the one between Noor and her abu, but Mithoo, the pet parrot, plays an important role, too. What made you decide to use Mithoo as Noor’s primary source of encouragement? Was he a part of this story from day one? 

Marzieh: Yes! Mithoo is very much the pet I wish I had. I’ve always wanted a talking parrot, but no one in my house believes I can keep living things (other than my kids) alive! LOL! I have a track record for killing every plant that has come under my care. Psst: I just adopted two succulents and I’m told they might live! If they do, maybe I will have a Mithoo of my own someday, soon! 

Talking parrots are common in Pakistani households and Mithoo is a popular name for them. I wanted Noor to have something to keep her going despite her many setbacks. I figured this would be a great way to remind her of her grandma, and have an affirmation as a refrain throughout the story. 

Mithoo’s words, “Sub theek hai. Sub theek hoga!” translate to “Everything’s great. Everything’s going to be okay!” and is a reminder we can all use to ground ourselves and think of creative solutions when things get challenging. 

Sara: Speaking of all things creative, the art is so vibrant and fun. I especially love the endpapers with their black backgrounds and neon ingredients. When you saw Bhagya Madanasinghe’s art for the first time, what struck you the most?

Marzieh: Her color palette! It’s so warm and inviting. I also love how unique her style is. She’s simply brilliant and I’m so happy she agreed to bring Noor’s story to life!

Sara: What do you hope readers will take away from Awe-Samosas!?

Marzieh: I think food is a great way to learn about new cultures and form bonds. With the current state of the world, I hope my book brings people from diverse cultures together to celebrate and lift each other up! I also love cooking, and like Noor, I’m an experimental chef myself. I hope this book drives home the message that challenges shouldn’t be viewed as limitations, instead, they are what really makes us think out-of-the-box and grow!

Sara: I couldn’t agree more! Picture Book Builders readers can enter to win a copy of Awe-Samosas! by commenting below. Thank you Marzieh and Clarion for this giveaway! (US addresses only please.)

Sara Holly Ackerman

Sara Holly Ackerman is the author of several picture books including THE GABI THAT GIRMA WORE, co-authored with Fasika Adefris and illustrated by Netsanet Tesfay, NOT JUST THE DRIVER! illustrated by Robert Neubecker, and CHALLAH FOR SHABBAT TONIGHT illustrated by Alona Millgram. She is a school librarian who lives in Brooklyn, NY right down the street from the library and she never leaves home without her library card. Visit Sara at and on Instagram at @sarahollyackerman.


  1. Awesome!!! Sara and Marzieh, thank you for a delightful interview. Mazrieh, I hope you get a talking parrot of your own! Congratulations!!!

  2. Lovely! I really enjoy picture books about food! Yummy! Congratulations, Marzieh and Bhagya!

  3. Looking forward to reading and sharing this one. Thanks for the behind-the-scenes peek.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story, Mazrieh! Best of luck with your awesome book!

  5. It’s looks like such a fun book. I’m looking forward to reading it. Love the title tips!

  6. This looks like such a delicious book – can’t wit to read it. Thanks for sharing the journey to publication.

  7. This is a fabulous title! I can’t wait to read this book featuring a culture new to me and delicious sounding food too.

  8. I love picture books with some food. Thanks for a fun interview.

  9. Samosas…one of my favorite foods! My husband and I loved them so much, I learned how to prepare them from scratch!
    And I love how your book is both a mirror and a window for children to feel seen…and to learn about cultures different from their own…and how we are all really so much alike…and how important it is to be proud of our heritage – acknowledging the similarities and celebrating the differences!

  10. Thanks for sharing your book journey with us. And I agree–an awesome title!

  11. Congrats on the up-coming release of Awe-Samosas!

  12. Um, YUM. And I love the glimpse in we got there. Anti perfectionism and pro living! Thank you both.

  13. Everything about this book looks absolutely terrific, including the author interview. Looking forward to reading it!

  14. I used to wear a tshirt I made that said SAMOSA on it. This book title reminds me of that. Also I’m looking forward to Marzieh’s webinar for 12×12 Challenge. Congrats on the new book!

  15. Rebecca Gardyn Levington

    I think this book has the awesome-est title EVER and I can’t wait to read the book. Congrats!

  16. Such a delicious book in every way!

  17. Such a yummy book!!! Connection with family is important but also doing it in your own feels rewarding!

  18. I love the creative cooking idea – so much fun!

  19. This is exactly the kind of book I want to read with my half Pakistani half Vietnamese kids! Love it!!!

  20. I love the art and really loved hearing about your process. Congratulations, Marzieh!

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